Growing Local – Phase II

2016 Annual Report for LS14-260

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $299,943.00
Projected End Date: 02/18/2018
Grant Recipient: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Jackson
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Growing Local – Phase II


In Phase 2 of Growing Local, ASAP’s Local Food Research Center has conducted surveys and interviews with farmers, food industry buyers, and consumers and completed analyses of data from the Census of Agriculture and ASAP’s Local Food Guide database. The research has revealed the important role of place-based food and farm experiences for driving interest and demand for local food, identified strategies for farmers to use to build their farm brand and customer bases, and identified findings relevant for food buyers and entrepreneurs navigating increasing consumer demand for local food as well as increasing consumer skepticism of retailer claims.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Continue research with farmers and food buyers/entrepreneurs to document ways they are navigating and creating the food system’s emerging and shifting terrain – the opportunities and challenges they encounter, the decisions and innovations they employ in the context of shifting opportunities and constraints.
  2. Conduct a full analysis of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data for Western North Carolina (in comparison to 2002 and 2007 data)
  3. Conduct research with shoppers at farmers markets and with attendees of other food and farm events to determine the impacts of these experiences on participants. Do these experiences help to promote a democratization of the food system by increasing awareness and knowledge of food and agriculture, facilitating interaction and dialogue between participants about food and agriculture, building participants’ capacities to take actions that will affect change in the food system, and building an orientation among participants toward the public good? And what kinds of actions are movement participants taking?  
  4. Collate and analyze data from ASAP’s Growing Minds farm to school work, which uses place-based food and farm education and experience to create environments in schools that model healthy eating behaviors to kids, teachers, and staff.  
  5. Continue to conduct reviews of emerging literature relevant to local food system development. Focus key areas of literature review on social movement theory (e.g., stages of development, coalescence, collapse, lessons from other social movements), the sociology and psychology of changing individuals’ perceptions and practices, the true “cost” of food, social capital measures, and the concern-action gap.


In 2016 (January 1 – December 31), we accomplished the following:

  • Completed in-depth interviews with the farmer panel
  • Transcribed and analyzed the farmer interviews
  • Conducted Year 2 surveys with food and farm event participants at farmers markets, farm tours, and CSA fairs
  • Analyzed event attendee survey data
  • Conducted outreach for event attendee interviews
  • Conducted interviews with 2015 event attendees
  • Analyzed event attendee interviews
  • Disseminated research findings through:  
    • A conference paper (Reinventing and Reinvesting in the Local for Our Common Good Conference): “Agents of Change and the Local Food Movement,” paper presented at the Southern Anthropological Society, Huntington, WV, April 7-9, 2016.
    • ASAP’s Business of Farming Conference, a day of workshops and structured farmer-buyer meetings for 200 farmers growing for and selling into local markets
    • Radio: In 2016, ASAP produced a full year of Growing Local, a radio spot that airs Monday mornings at 8:45 on WNCW, a regional public radio station. Growing Local is informed by ASAP’s theory of change and food system democratization framework. Radio spots are designed to increase the public’s knowledge of local food and farms in the region and provide them with ways to act to support the continued development of the local food system. All segments are archived on ASAP’s SoundCloud page:
    • A research blog: Perrett, A. (2016) Local Food, Process, and Social Change. Anthropologies #22.
  • Began outlining and developing a “local food trends report.” The report will provide research-based guidance to farmers growing for local markets and to food industry buyers seeking to purchase and promote local food to their customers. Report findings and recommendations will draw directly on the SARE Large Systems research and, for a larger context, draw on national food trend reports and findings.
  • Updated ASAP’s research page to make it more navigable and user friendly.
  • Developed a manuscript describing findings from the analysis of Growing Minds Farm to School data.

The work left to do on this project includes: 

  • Conduct interviews with 2016 local food and farm event attendees
  • Conduct Year 3 surveys with food and farm event participants at farmers markets, farm tours, and CSA fairs
  • Conduct interviews with local food distribution entrepreneurs
  • Analyze survey and interview findings
  • Finalize a report of Census of Agriculture findings
  • Finalize the local food trends report and disseminate. Analyze farmer interviews

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Findings of the research are directly informing our extension activities with farmers, food industry buyers, and the public. Our research with farmers and food industry buyers have identified the innovative ways farmers and local food entrepreneurs are successfully navigating (as well as creating) the region’s emerging local food system. Our research with farmers market shoppers and with the attendees of other local food and farm linked events is evaluating the impact of different local food/farm experiences on participants’ views and actions.

The research has revealed the important role of place-based food and farm experiences for driving interest and demand for local food, identified strategies for farmers to use to build their farm brand and customer bases, and strategies for food buyers and entrepreneurs to use to navigate increasing demand for local food as well as consumer skepticism of retailer claims.

Research with event participants suggests the importance of place-based experiences for driving and deepening interest and demand for local food. Preliminary survey findings indicate that local food and farm focused events are promoting knowledge gain, information sharing, and social interaction – all foundations of increasing participation in the food system. The democratization research – the theory behind the significance of increasing food system participation for changing the food system, the indicators and measures for measuring the capacity of movement strategies and actions to facilitate food system democratization, the unique position of local food initiatives to promote this process – has significant implications for the strategies of local food system building efforts.

An analysis of data collected through ASAP’s Growing Minds farm to school work also provides insight into the significance of local food and farm based educational experiences for changing students’ (and their families) and staffs’ eating preferences and behaviors. Preliminary results of data on Growing Minds@University (farm to school principles and practices that have been integrated into university education and nutrition curricula) show that the professional and personal practices of teachers and dieticians in training are impacted. Education and nutrition students are integrating farm to school activities in their teaching and dietetic internships; students have also noted how the Growing Minds@University program is impacting their diets (trying new foods) and shopping habits (purchasing more local foods) and is increasing their skills in educating children. The results validate and inform our ongoing work with teachers, students, cafeteria staffs, School Nutrition Directors, colleges and universities, and farmers (that serve schools or host school groups) and will have relevance to farm to school efforts nationally.


Katie Descieux
306 West Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Office Phone: 8282361282
Allison Perrett
306 West Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Office Phone: 8282361282